This was part of a larger entry in my lj on the restrictive definition of geekery in general, and then I got completely sidetracked addressing some of the negative comments I've seen online on movie!Uhura. Obviously, preaching to the choir here, but in case there any interest:
(Btw, thanks to whoever posted that Nichelle interview a couple of pages back, it served to illustrate my point without breaking lj's character limit:
It got me thinking about movie!Uhura (because like I said, my brain is currently Trek central) and some of the negative reactions I’ve been seeing online. I’ve seen everything from “whore”, to “Mary Sue”, to ‘just a love interest’ and so on. I suppose I could voice my objections in comments to every single one of those posts but that would be a)counterproductive b)unnecessarily argumentative and c)from a time management perspective, kind of CRAZY. So here are my thoughts on yaoi, for everybody who hasn’t given up reading ages ago:
1.“Whore”: WHAT? Seriously, which orifice did they pull that from? While I find calling, say, Gwen from Torchwood equally loathsome in the any gendered insults on women’s sexuality way, Gwen at least engaged in some potentially ill-advised sexual behaviour on the show (but then, so did EVERYBODY. So to hear Gwen characterized the “the whore of Cardiff” from fans of Jack “I never met a lifeform I didn’t try to shag” Harkness and Ianto “I use my sexual wiles to get a position on Torchwood in order to help keep my robotic girlfriend alive” Jones is a bit rich. Especially when those same fans proceed to woobify the resident date rapist, Owen).
But with Uhura? Apparently the evidence of her ‘whore’ status came from….I actually have NO idea. Wearing the regulation uniform miniskirt? Being amused at Kirk’s inept flirting at the bar rather than clutching her pears in horror? Having a relationship with her instructor (not the best idea, but given that Spock is the one in the position of authority in this, I’ve seen a surprising lack of “Spock is a WHORE” posts). Seriously, I’d love to hear the reasoning behind this and no, “She got icky girl cooties in my slash” is not an acceptable answer.
2.“Mary Sue”: Yes, movie!Uhura is allowed to do a lot more than TOS Uhura, nobody’s disputing that. But leaving aside that the increased role could easily be fanwanked away within the show’s canon considering the alternate timeline and all the small and major ways it could be different, it’s also incredibly short-sighted to overlook the role that the overwhelming racism and sexism of the era played in not allowing Roddenberry to write the character he wanted. Just listen to Nichelle Nichols talk on the subject:
So yes, nu!Trek updated Uhura, not to make her somehow MORE magically awesome than the rest of the crew, but to bring her to equal footing. Are those people whining about accuracy also missing the random female extras in the original whose primary function seemed to be bringing trays of food to Kirk on the bridge (been watching TOS lately, WTF was that? In the spaceships of the future…there are stewardesses).
And movie Uhura performs admirably in her field, much like everybody in the cast. Sure, she’s very GOOD at it but then, so is everyone of the main cast. Sulu traded his fencing sword for the extendable katana of badassery, Kirk can apparently catch a man in freefall (and do it sexily), Chekov is the Doogie Howser of technobabble, the Federation just gave a freakin’ ship and ranks to a bunch of CADETS, it’s not a documentary!
3. “Just a love interest”: *massages temples* This one is often a few paragraphs under the Mary Sue accusation. So apparently Uhura was supposed to do less…except she was supposed to do more! Often combined with the “no strong female characters in the movie” argument (which is not without merits, but when aimed at Uhura, makes flames appear on the side of my face). I missed the memo that strong female character=necessarily kicking physical ass. First off, exactly three members of the crew got to kick ass here: Kirk (he also got to have his ass kicked a lot, bless him), Spock (see previous comment about Kirk getting his ass kicked) and Sulu (sexiest fight scene of all!). The rest contributed by using their mental muscles, which I thought was something we appreciated in fandom? A character who seems utterly devoted to her studies to the point where she translates transmissions for fun seems on paper to be someone who ought to hit all the fangeek identification buttons, doesn’t she?
As for the romance plotline…I’m tired of the attitude that a female character daring to be anything but utterly sexless somehow makes her less than. The double standard is everywhere-it’s why all Star Trek captains were allowed to get it on with random alien babes (ok, not so much Picard, but he did get some action, and there was the Crusher thing) or, in Sisko’s case, even have a *gasp* long-term relationship and family while poor Janeway's utter score card from seven years of Voyager amounted to a relationship when her memory was erased (which of course ended as soon as she gained her memory), a flirtation/mind game with an alien for the sole purpose of smuggling some refugees under his nose (yes, I’ve watched all Voyager eps repeatedly, don’t judge me), an actual freakin' arc of a relationship with a HOLOGRAM that led her to endangering the lives of her crew (because teh wimminz, they are emotional!) and that UST with Chakotay that never went anywhere (to add insult to injury, he ended up with Seven-yes, let’s pair up the two people Kathryn Janeway had the most chemistry with, to make it abundantly clear she's not getting laid anytime soon).
The storyline could have been handled very badly if they’d presented her as some kind of prize to be won by one of the male leads. That wasn’t the case at all-Kirk flirted with her because he’s Kirk, he’d flirt with a rock. There was no antagonist vibe from him-he got over his shock at Vulcan sexytimes in two seconds flat and went on to teasing Spock (and now I want to read fic where he does that, a lot, possibly joined by Bones, while Uhura glares daggers at him, Sulu tries to keep from cracking up and Chekov is flushed and looking down at the console and singing “La la la” in his head, and of course this will all be happening on the bridge, because did I mention a large chunk of them are practically babies?).
So sure, a lot of the Uhura bashing is followed up by wishing we got to see other female characters from classic Trek like Nurse Chapel or that assistant of Kirk’s with the insane beehive (I’m assuming you’ll want them to be completely accurate reflections of their TOS selves, including pining after Spock and Kirk, being talked down to by everybody in a way that TOS Uhura actually wasn’t, and walking around holding serving trays with their asses hanging out, right?), Number One (ok, that would be awesomesauce. There’s always the next movie) or creating more female Starfleet captains (apparently staying true to old canon is not so much as issue there).
I’d love to see more female characters in the sequels. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for Uhura, who presents a less flashy but far more relatable way of kicking ass (language geeks FTW!), who actually strikes a work-life balance and shows that maybe, just maybe, dangly earrings, impractical hair and wearing the hell out of a miniskirt doesn’t mean you aren’t, in fact, a gigantic geek.